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Miami Criminal Defense Blog

Florida loses another round on felon voting law

In Florida, a felony conviction has historically meant the end of your ability to vote -- a restriction that hails back to Jim Crow-era laws and tends to affect black voters disproportionally.

Amendment 4, or the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, was supposed to enact the will of the people. In 2018, Floridians overwhelmingly voted to give the majority of felons their voting rights back after they'd completed their sentence and any parole or probation.

Pyramid schemes and multi-level marketing: What's the difference?

"Side gigs" are very common in America today. Almost everybody is an entrepreneur, of sorts, whether they're running a YouTube channel or driving for Uber. If you're looking for the right side gig for you, however, it's smart to know how to spot the difference between multi-level marketing (MLM) plans and pyramid schemes.

What's the difference?

White collar prosecutions: Where the focus lies for now

White collar criminal prosecutions are in the news a lot these days. Since it's always wise to know where investigative trends are going, let's take a look at what's been happening in late 2019 and where you may expect investigative efforts to focus next.

At the end of 2019, the Justice Department got tough on a number of high-level executives over issues related to the way that their companies reported their success to investors. Executives at the tech startup Outcome Health were indicted for both bank and wire fraud, falsification of documents, as well as other kinds of illegal misconduct for allegedly deceiving banks, clients and investors alike.

Florida drug overdoses lead to murder charges

Maybe you share your drugs with a friend who just had a back injury. Maybe you sold a few pills because you just needed to make the bills. Maybe you're just dealing enough to support your own habit. You're careful about who knows what you're doing, and you never engage in the kind of high-quantity deals that attract major investigations.

What's the worst that could happen? Well, you could end up charged with murder.

What causes people to embezzle?

Embezzlement is a very specific type of crime. Unlike ordinary theft or burglary, embezzlement requires you to be part of an organization and in a relatively trusted role. That generally only happens when you've been in a position of authority inside a company for some time.

Why on earth would someone throw all that hard-earned trust away? Researchers say that embezzlers, by and large, are not bad people who cavalierly engage in fraud. Instead, there are usually three factors that come into play before embezzlement happens:

  1. Individual pressure. Gambling addictions, drug dependencies, alcoholism and spending problems all have one thing in common: They're expensive. Some people embezzle to fund their vices. Other people embezzle merely to hide them.
  2. An opportunity. You can't embezzle if you aren't in a position to do so. The lack of oversight you experience can sometimes lead to a feeling of invulnerability that makes a person willing to take chances.
  3. The ability to justify one's actions. Many embezzlers do one of two things. They convince themselves that they're owed something by the company after years of hard work and service or they promise themselves that the embezzlement is a temporary fix for their problems and vow to pay the money back before it is missed.

Federal judge rules police officer lied about traffic stop

Dashcam video from a Cincinnati, Ohio, police officer’s cruiser was used to exonerate a man who the officer accused of making an illegal lane change, which eventually led to drug charges against the motorist.

Timothy Britton was pulled over on a Cincinnati street in October of 2018 by an officer claiming he failed to use his turn signal at an intersection until he was already in the intersection.

Is the government tapping your phones?

Being subjected to a federal investigation is enough to make anybody a little bit paranoid -- and rightly so. You may wonder if your office is about to be raided any minute now, or whether you'll get home from work to find federal agents picking apart your personal papers and scouring through your computer. You may also start to worry that your phone lines are being tapped.

It's not an utterly irrational fear. Reports as early as 2013 indicate that federal authorities are using more and more wiretaps in their white-collar investigations. Once upon a time, wiretaps were mostly used in drug trafficking and murder investigations.

Doctor's assets targeted in civil forfeiture over opioids

The federal government has moved to seize $1.6 million in assets from a doctor accused of operating a pill mill that operated in Tennessee and Kentucky. The curious thing about this is that the doctor has yet to be formally charged.

The move was likely not a surprise to the doctor -- or his friends and business associates. Federal and state authorities had raided the doctor's Tennessee clinic back in 2018. At that time, they seized a number of cars and cash from the doctor, people closely associated with him and some related businesses. The government has been holding on to the money and goods ever since then.

Why the IRS starts looking for fraud

It's January, which means that it won't be long before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) starts its annual parade of tax notifications and warnings, all designed to remind people -- especially business owners and professionals -- of their legal obligations.

In other words, you're being reminded that it's against the law to cheat on your taxes, and that the IRS will aggressively pursue suspected tax fraud whenever they can. But what makes the IRS start to question what's going on with your taxes in the first place? How do they pick who gets investigated?

  • The Information Returns Processing (IRP) System: This system draws matches between related returns and electronic records. Payroll records, W-2s, 1099s and more are loaded into computer databases, and the IRS looks for gaps in the paper trial between them.
  • Social media information: Human beings tend to like to display their wealth in ways both subtle and obvious. If your visible lifestyle conflicts with what seems to appear on your social media page, you can bet that the IRS is likely to be curious. Far too many people don't realize just how much social media is used in legal investigations these days and think that what they post online is somehow likely to be overlooked. (There's even a possibility that the IRS may be looking at your old emails, thanks to a gap in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act that makes email over 180-days old on a third-party server legally "abandoned.")
  • Whistleblower reports: There's huge legal, ethical and financial incentives for a whistleblower to let the IRS know about a company's or professional's wrongdoings. Aside from all of that, some whistleblowers are motivated out of anger or revenge. An angry romantic partner or a disgruntled employee might relish "turning you in" to the IRS -- even if there wasn't a reward.

Key member of Florida House questions retroactive sentencing

There have been a lot of changes under Florida's laws to the way that people are prosecuted and sentenced for drug crimes. However, there are hundreds of prisoners doing time for drug offenses under the old laws.

In Nov. 2018, voters in the state approved a measure that would allow lawmakers to retroactively apply the current laws to those old cases. For almost 1,000 prisoners, each serving sentences of as long as 25 years, the retroactive sentencing would reduce their sentences dramatically. It would bring them into line with what someone sentenced today might receive. In particular, this would likely free many inmates who are serving long sentences for possession or sale of prescription narcotics within the state.

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